This article elaborates outcomes of the online TracFM e-Participation System deployed by ToroDev in the Rwenzori sub-region, Western Uganda to enable citizens engage with leaders (service providers) for improved public service delivery.
A survey by ToroDev reported that at least 60 citizens attended each Accountability Meeting organized by 15 advocacy forums (720 citizens for whole year) by December 2013. An average of 3 to 5 women attended radio talk shows monthly by December 2013 and membership of each of 15 Citizens’ Advocacy Forums was at an average of 40 by December 2013. ToroDev and 2 partner broadcast media houses (Hits FM & Better FM) received 304 direct responses from citizens by December 2013 (an average of 25 per month) through mobile and online social media technology.
In 2014, ToroDev targeted to reach and receive direct responses from 4,200 listeners by use of talkshows on 2 FM radio stations monthly through mobile and online social media applications. It also expected to receive over 250 monthly online & SMS messages through trac.fm/Frontline SMS platforms. Atleast 200 citizens were targeted to attend each accountability meeting organised by each of the 15 advocacy forums. Atleast 50 citizens were expected to attend each rural radio debate, with a selection of 40%:40%:20% (Women: Youth: Men). ToroDev also targeted to facilitate the increase in number of Citizens’ Advocacy Forum members to 1,500 from 600 members by November 2014.
ToroDev uses different information and knowledge sharing platforms (both online & offline) like Radio live talk shows, online social media, Tracfm, accountability meeting, rural radio debates and supporting 15 advocacy forums for improved public accountability and improved service delivery in the Rwenzori region. ToroDev also deployed the Tracfm Online Polls application on 3 FM radio stations in western Uganda, in order to promote the [electronic] e-participation.
There has been an increase in the number of callers and respondents on radio talk shows from 304 per month in December 2013 to 4,835 per week in 2014. This is as a result of TracFM system (Trac FM is an online tool that allows local citizens to air their opinion on service delivery in their communities, with only an SMS which is cost effectively pre-paid by ToroDev. It can be easily combined with broadcast media/radio to maximize its relevance).
The number of citizen attending accountability meeting increased from 60 per meeting in December 2013 to an average of 200 (60 women, 100 youth and other local leaders) per meeting by August 2014. Moreover, there has been an increase in number of women sharing their views on radio talks shows from 5 monthly in December 2013 to 50 women monthly in 2014, as a result of rural radio debates organized in remote (hard to reach) areas in Western Uganda. Membership of each Citizens Advocacy Forum has increased from 40 members to an average of 110 members. Out of 4835 responses received through Tracfm, 43% are women. The increasing number of responses received every week through TracFM has attracted political, local and technocrats to contact ToroDev and partner broadcast media, to give feedback on respective issues raised by the respondents on status of public service delivery. “In the month of December 2014, there was a poll about how often citizens experienced electricity load-shedding (off & on). Over 5000 responses were received about 85% noted that, they experience load shedding everyday, which forced the director of Umene to contact me as the moderator of the program asking me for some time to come and sensitize citizens about what load shedding really means. This problem was solved in many places and local citizens were educated about the issue” Said Kasigazi William the moderator of orukurato Program supported by ToroDev on Hits Fm.
The radio talkshows and TracFM system have helped local citizens to ask accountability from their leaders without fear or favour and lobby for better services. “Before the radio talk shows were introduced leaders were very hard to reach and we used to fear them, beg them and they were taken as special people but radio talk shows, TracFM and accountability meetings have helped citizens to work hand in hand with both political and technical leaders. We no longer fear our leaders and we have been able to approach them in their offices to give us accountability, we are brave enough to approach any leader because we have been given a good platform, sensitised and facilitated on a monthly basis by ToroDev to monitor services, attend radio talkshow and hold monthly meetings as forum members. This has caused improved services delivery like in March 2014 Butiti health centre 111 a latrine was put in place due to our intervention”, said Jane Ahimbisibwe leader of Butiti people’ forum, Kyenjojo district.
Radio talk shows and TracFM online polling, accountability meetings and citizens’ advocacy forums have helped to expose the weaknesses of the leaders and they have reduced on the level of corruption in different sub – counties and districts. Corruption cases have been followed by the radio journalists who work hand in hand with the advocacy forums and facts have been revealed. “The rampant corruption tendencies at Mugusu Police Post have drastically reduced by atleast 25% January 2014 to May 2014. As a forum in Mugusu we have carried a survey about this. Police officers could take bribes in the broad light and citizens came and reported to us, we gathered more evidence from other people who were also cheated and we presented the case to the DPC who worked hand in hand with us and found out the truth, the officers who could do that were demoted and some transferred to other places, the mew officers now don’t take bribes because they know we are watching them step by step and if they mess up they are exposed and it can cost them a lot”. Said Tibenda Stephen the secretary of People’ rights and forum for development in Mugusu Sub county Kabarole district
There has been reasonable improvement in public service delivery among different sectors as a result accountability meetings, radio talkshows, rural debates, advocacy forums and Tracfm system. For example the accountability meetings have increased citizen participation to lobby for improved service delivery and demand for accountability from their local and political leaders. ToroDev supported the initiation of 15 rural advocacy forums that have been instrumental in organizing citizens to participate in physical accountability meetings, participate through TracFM and online social media. “In January 2014 we were hosted live on Better FM and talked about Bufunjo Health Centre III which had only four (4) nurses, the patients were too many for the few staff which caused long waiting hours for one to get treatment. The issue was then attended to and six (6) more nurses were recruited to the Health centre in the next month.” Noted Twesige Andrew, a forum member of Bufunjo People’s Forum